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The Amazing Cameo-Man

Comic book hero plays one on screen

As went Hitchcock, so goes Stan Lee.

Like the Master of Suspense, the Master of the Marvel Universe regularly pops up in brief appearances in films based on Marvel characters. “(The filmmakers) know I love doing the cameos,” Lee says. “I don’t seek them out, but I don’t make any secret of the fact that I get a big kick out of them.”

During the 1980s, Lee had lent his voice to various animated series, often as narrator, and played himself on an episode of “The Simpsons.” His first onscreen appearance in a Marvel-based film was in the 1989 TV film “The Trial of the Incredible Hulk,” as a jury foreman.

Lee’s largest role came in 1995, when he played himself in Kevin Smith’s comicbook-influenced “Mallrats.” “He’s something of a ham himself, so he really enjoyed doing it,” Smith says. “And he turned in a really wonderful performance.”

In 2000’s “X-Men,” Lee appeared as a hotdog vender, but he missed out on the 2003 sequel, “X2: X-Men United.” “I think my friend (director) Bryan Singer just forgot about me,” he muses.

Lee was unable to get to the Florida location of 2004’s “The Punisher,” which thwarted his planned cameo in that film.

But Lee can be glimpsed in 2002’s “Spider-Man,” protecting a little girl during an attack by the Green Goblin. In 2003, he appeared in both “Hulk,” as a security guard, and “Daredevil,” as a man who is prevented from walking into traffic by the young, ostensibly blind Matt Murdock (the future Daredevil).

For “Spider-Man 2,” Lee is once more in hero mode. “I’m pulling a girl out of the way of some falling debris,” he says. “If you blink you’ll miss me, but if you see me, I’m very heroic.”

That’s no accident, according to director Sam Raimi. “Stan has always been one of my heroes,” Raimi says, “so that’s why he’s playing a hero in my movies based on his characters.”

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